From manga to anime, deciding what to adapt and how to adapt a manga into an anime series is challenging. In our continued weekly interview series with the 【OSHI NO KO】team, Jin Tanaka, the scriptwriter and series composer, shared with us his creative insights and process behind writing【OSHI NO KO】.
How did you first get involved with 【OSHI NO KO】 anime project?
Jin Tanaka: I’ve worked with Doga Kobo already in the past. One of the producers from Doga Kobo called me and he said, “We’re going to adapt 【OSHI NO KO】 into anime, would you like to join?” I was like, “What? 【OSHI NO KO】, really?”
Originally, it was serialized on Jump Plus, so I read it since the first chapter was released. So of course, I was already caught up on the story, so I was surprised that they’d allow me to work on such an exciting title. I had a lot of fun as a fan.
【OSHI NO KO】 often has tense, gripping cliffhangers at the end of every chapter. When breaking the series up into episodes, how did you decide where to stop at each episode?
Akasaka-sensei already imagined this being produced as an anime. He would think and plan, “Maybe this part is about 30 minutes long.” Since I heard about the anime adaptation, I also thought there’s no need to change a truly great story, so I wanted to honor his plans and predictions.
Of course, manga and animation are different, so turning it into an animation requires some technical changes. With 【OSHI NO KO】, there’s aspects like the drama so for fans, I think it should be enjoyed purely as it is. I decided this from the very beginning of the project.
Other than that, there are parts where the drama’s tension really builds up and with that change in tempo in mind, I wanted to express the excitement that I felt, including the shock and the unnerving feeling, exactly the way it’s originally portrayed. That served as the foundation for the staff to work on this project. “Can we bring the atmosphere made by the original source and preserve it as we turn it into an animation?” was the thought running through our minds before working on it.
But actually, when we were thinking about how we want to express how amazing the manga is in animation form, that 30 minutes include the commercials, opening theme, etc. so it’s not actually 30 minutes. It’s shorter than that. In order to make it fit, there were times when we had to cut some of the content, which is something that happens in any anime production.
So if you approach it in a way like, “Okay, here’s an interesting part, let’s end the episode there and pick it back up in the next episode” it doesn’t work because you can’t change the source material. In each episode, you have to make each episode interesting and there will be parts that you just can’t change. It always happens.
In this case, the producers decided the first episode will be 90 minutes long. They wanted to make it 90 minutes. It was decided from the start. In the first volume of the manga, we have to adapt the last part of the first volume in the first episode or else the main compelling part won’t be told. So if you think about it in 30 minute episodes, that would mean that part would show up in the third episode. Can we drag the thrill out for three episodes? That would be very difficult.
That would require many modifications to the story. But it was decided from the get-go that the first episode will be 90 minutes. We’ll tell all of Ai’s story in the first episode. When I was told this, it became much easier.
Episode 1 felt like a movie.
Yes, it was made with the intention of making it like a movie. The way you make an anime and a movie is a little different. I’ve written scripts for animated movies quite a few times so I made it in that way. So I wrote the script for the first episode as if it were a 90 minute movie.
Were there any challenges with creating the series composition for 【OSHI NO KO】?
Hmm…I mentioned that I wanted to present it like the source material exactly as-is, but… The dialog lines are almost exactly the same, but the manga is expressed in panels while in animation there’s also the setting.
For example, in manga, if one character is talking, they are the only character drawn in the panel. But in animation, the environment is also depicted. So even the background characters are drawn in. It’s made with all of that factored in.
In the manga, they aren’t drawn in, but in anime, you have to also think about what everyone else is doing in that same area as the scene is being played out and think about what their intentions are as they’re doing what they’re doing. So there’s a lot of things that needed to be answered as they needed to be written into the script.
In the planning meeting, Akasaka-sensei and Yokoyari-sensei participated from time to time and joins remotely. So I asked, “What’s going on in this scene? What is this part like? In this panel, the people in the vicinity, what kind of people are they?” As I got answers to these questions, I was able to write the script.
So you have to keep in mind the environment?
In writing the script, yes. Especially adapting from the source material, of course there’s already a foundation for the script so you can’t change it too much unless it really needs to. “To turn this into an anime, how should we do this part?” or “How should we portray this character?”
All these kinds of details are confirmed with Akasaka-sensei and we can work together in this way. That’s the beauty of these anime planning meetings. All of us work together, not just for the script, but with everyone together, we envision it coming to life as an anime as we work it out.
What are ways to ensure that the creative anime team is following the same way as the script?
Of course, we all aim for the way that it’s depicted in the manga. For example, in episode 3, in the scene when they’re filming “KyouAma” (“Kyou wa Amakuchide,” the drama that Aqua is acting in) in the studio. The filming staff is there, but for example, one of the major themes in this anime is that it depicts what it looks like to work in show business.
For example, there’s the director and other staff in the scene, like the assistant director, cameraman, etc. So how many staff people are there? It’s important to get details like that right because in this scene, it’s a low-budget drama, so there shouldn’t be too many people working there. We have to hint at these kinds of bits of context.
The actors may be acting very showy during the shoot for KyouAma, but in reality, they’re actually very plain and it conveys how much budget there is. And, even in scenes in the manga where you don’t really care who the character is talking to,, in the anime, you have to include sounds and overall art so there’s much more information that needs to be expressed. Even if you’re not conscious of its existence, it is seen by the audience. So areas like this, you may skim past it without even thinking in the manga, but we discuss all of these things in the meetings.
For the anime, you have to discuss all aspects like the dialog, music, and everything.
Yes. In addition, simply put, there is foreshadowing in the lines that Aqua says,, so we asked, “What is the scene for these lines?” For people who have read the manga, they’ll be looking forward to what happens, but for us, we need to know what happens or else there will be inconsistencies. In what kind of way is Aqua speaking these lines? We need to know this because it influences how the dialog comes across. We ask these kinds of things and then it’s like, “Oh! It’s said in this way for this reason so when it comes to the voice acting, we need to make sure the cast acts it out in this way or have the art drawn in this way.” We have to take all of this into consideration.
In a way, the special 90 minutes first episode established the flow and sequence for the rest of the series. Could you talk about how you approached the series composition and script after Episode 2?
This is one of those situations that helped a lot by having the first volume adapted in the 90 minute episode, but like I said before, in the second episode and after, it’s not actually 30 minutes due to the commercials and opening themes and such. Since it’s shorter, we actually found ways to extend the length of the episodes.
Compared to the average anime, the episodes are longer for 【OSHI NO KO】. Since it’s unusual, it’s pretty risky to do it this way in regards to the budget and the increase in work because of needing to animate that additional part. Many things have to be increased.
Normally, 23 minutes is the limit and you have to work within that, but this time, in order to include as much as we can, it was discussed beforehand to extend the episodes as much as possible. Of course, there were limitations that we had to meet at the very minimum. So in this regard, it’s very extravagant that we were allowed to do this as long as we met these conditions.
Is the reason for extending the episode was because you wanted to stay true to the original story?
Yes, the more of the story you cut out, the more that doesn’t get told. It’s up to the scriptwriting to determine how much is adapted and I did my part to do so, but… the more time we have to work with, the more we get to work with in terms of telling the story. I’m very grateful for it.
Because of that, the plot becomes more interesting and the more scenes we can include in order to have a more satisfying climax to the story. We can also produce nicer art. It’s easier to work when you have more time for the episode.
Any final comments to fans as they continue watching the series?
I said this before, but I myself am a fan of the story and there’s so many people who feel this is an interesting title and are looking forward to this anime. From that, we’ve put in an equal amount of work and effort to stay true to the source material to accurately express how amazing it is. On top of what exists in the 【OSHI NO KO】 manga, we added animation, sound, etc. together so it would make me happy if everyone can enjoy the 【OSHI NO KO】 anime.
For additional information on 【OSHI NO KO】, check out the official EN Twitter account @oshinoko_global.
Interview Interpreter: Adele San
Translator: Momo Cha